That picture is my oboe and my army of reed making tools.
When I was 8 years old I read a story about a little girl who played the violin. I was so enthralled with the idea of playing a violin, I marched myself home and announced to my parents I wanted to learn to play. Despite our awesome musical last name (Tune), there are no other musicians in my family, so suffice it to say it was a surprise. But my parents humored me and got me a violin, and off to orchestra I went.
When I was 10 we moved to Nevada, and I was enrolled in a school district with no orchestra, only a band. My band director told me I had to pick another instrument if I still wanted to play. So I thought about it a bit and said “I want to play an instrument with a reed!” My band director took one look at me and said “why don’t you try the oboe, it has TWO reeds!” So I happily got myself an oboe and under his tutelage began learning to play, completely oblivious to how difficult it actually was. He later told me he figured if I could handle the violin, the oboe would be easy for me to pick up.
Thus began my long career as a musician. I played all the way through middle school and high school, only detouring to flute and piccolo for the inevitable marching band season. I made honor band, all-state band, and eventually music consumed my life. When it came time for college I only saw one option: a music degree.
I eventually went to college on a full ride in Las Vegas. While I would have preferred to go to a conservatory or other high-powered music school, it was out of the question because I could not afford to pay for it (I had to pay for college myself). Still, I had a brilliant oboe professor at UNLV, and for several years I immersed myself in playing. I did all sorts of gigs around town. I got hired to play in the orchestra when Pavarotti came to Vegas.
And then in the latter half of my junior year, the luster of music wore off. I can’t really explain what happened to me. I began to regard playing as a chore. I lost interest in my music classes. I no longer felt that burning desire to play the oboe forever. I still practiced. I improved by leaps and bounds. I excelled in my classes. Yet I was looking around at the world and wondering what I was missing with my head buried in a sheet of music.
By the time I graduated, I had completely burnt out.
I played another year or so locally after graduation. Then I put my oboe away and didn’t look at it for two years. It sat in a closet, collecting dust. One day I pulled it out and played, just for fun. Then I played again. Then I found myself dragging it out a couple of times a month to run scales, play through some concertos, and work on reeds. Suddenly it became fun again.
So I spent the last 7 years or so a closet oboe player. Never playing for anyone. Only playing for myself. Not practicing regularly, but practicing enough to keep my skills from completely going to hell. A couple of weeks ago my former oboe professor rolled into town and outed me to the local music community as an oboe player, so suddenly I’m back playing in orchestras. And I’m ok with it.
I don’t regret a single moment of the time I spent with the oboe, nor do I regret walking away from it. It fit my life, it suited me, and it’s a skill that not many can claim to have.